DTV-8 was right to show footage of the accident on the No 19 Public Road

Dear Editor,
The Commander of ‘B’ Division, Mr Stephen Merai lambasted Dave’s Television Station Channel Eight last week during a press conference about the deaths on the No 19 Public Road. The official expressed disgust and disappointment over the special report that was aired on the evening of the accident (Oct 29) and a replay of same the following morning (Oct 30). He chided the television station for airing what he referred to as “unedited” and “raw” footage of body parts, as well as a woman whose underwear was shown while being pulled out of a trench. He thought the footage was “nasty” and urged the channel to be more professional in the future.

This officer’s comments were out of line, out of context and inaccurate in some parts. DTV-8  aired a warning for over a minute on the screen on the evening of the accident. The warning stated, “Channel 8 News: Special Report…Viewers’ discretion advised. Footage includes splattered brains and mangled dead bodies.” If someone had wanted to change the channel, they could have done so during the course of that time. The commander’s grouse was that some persons were not able to read what was on the screen. That’s pretty out of context, even for the Commander. Is this indicative that Berbicians are people who do not know how to read? Maybe the Ministry of Education needs to expand the remedial classes for adults in the region.

Many persons watch television and do not even know what they are seeing. The official stated during the press conference, that words of warning were being flashed at the bottom of the screen during the special report. In actuality, this was not so. The warning was aired for over a minute prior to the airing of the report, but was not flashing during the report.

Mr Merai called the raw footage “unprofessional” and said that if the TV station had come under his [police] department, he would have “seized their equipment and take[n] drastic measures.” He further went on to say he would have searched to see what the law books say as it relates to sanctions against the station for airing the footage. I humbly inform the commander that he cannot sanction any TV station, because that kind of thing falls under the purview of the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB) or the Minister of Information, the President himself.

This television station, like every other in Guyana, has a job to do. Why not let them do their job? I am sure that many Berbicians were thankful to DTV-8 for the quick response in airing the special report that evening. The fact remains that the channel did the right thing and acted within acceptable journalistic parameters and aired for over a minute a warning that described fully what was to follow. At that point, it was the public’s choice to either continue watching the report, turn off their television sets or change the channel if they could not handle what was to be shown.

No matter what the media do in Guyana, they will never have any thanks. If DTV had not shown a special report, the public would have had something else to say. Damned if you do; damned if you don’t. Why didn’t the ‘B’ Division commander focus on some of his unprofessional police ranks in Berbice? Why didn’t he speak out against those who threw the dead bodies and parts on top of each other in a disrespectful way in the tray of the 4×4 vehicle at the scene of the accident instead of going with a few body bags? Why didn’t the Commander choose to speak out and chide his officers, some of whom were seen taking photographs with their cell-phones instead of lending a hand at the scene of the accident on the day in question?

Why doesn’t Mr Merai come clean as it relates to my complaint filed more than a month ago about one of his delinquent officers (who appeared to have been sleeping in the 911 Operations room) who refused to send help during an emergency call to 911 before putting the telephone down on me?

Mr Merai did not attack certain newspapers, which from time to time, would show graphic photos, but picked on poor DTV Channel Eight, a community television station that does a pretty darn good service for Berbicians. This is honestly and independently speaking. DTV airs one of the best newscasts in the region – 100% better than others.

TV stations and newspapers do not hide what the public needs to see, not in this day and age. For some of us to truly see what can happen when others misuse the roadways, we need to see the entire thing as it happened.  I would like to compliment Channel Eight for airing the special report and for showing Berbi-cians the true and real picture of the end results of gross carelessness and negligence on our roadways. Perhaps this accident might not even have happened if traffic cops had been on the road, hiding under some tree and pointing radar guns at vehicles on that day. But it was raining. The rain prevented them from doing their job; how convenient.
Mr Merai should get real; this is the 21st century. This is the age of ‘hard’ news. Anyone who cannot keep up with that, will be left behind.

Yours faithfully,
Leon Suseran

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